Helping young lawyers is very rewarding. As a successful attorney here in Florida, I have a wealth of experience from my many years in winning cases for my clients. New attorneys have many obstacles and much to learn, about the law, networking and navigating the legal system.
Lawyers need to ask the right questions
The Practice #6: Things can be chaotic for a young lawyer. You get pulled in so many different directions (emotionally, too). You may have one partner asking you to do one thing immediately and then suddenly another attorney shows up asking you to go in a different direction by the end of day. This advice deals with how to prioritize. I think that is one of the most challenging things for young lawyers to master. You need to get over whether you should ask questions or not. Any good or great supervising attorney will tell you that “there is no such thing as a stupid question.” What should young attorneys do when two different partners are setting competing deadlines and are “tough” to deal with? Let the partner know what other assignments you are working on and the deadline you already have there. One of the worst things you can do is to give your supervising attorney a deadline for you to complete an assignment, and for you to miss your own deadline. This will make the practice of law much more enjoyable for you and you will likely get screamed at much less!
Your clients deserve an attorney with the right attitude:
The Practice #7: I was driving my 11-year-old son to train at a highly competitive tennis academy in the Fort Lauderdale area – Saviano High Performance (Sloan Stephens). The program is over 6 hours each day. I asked him, “What do you like the most about the program?” He said, “The competition in the last hour.” I then asked him, “What do you like the least about the program?” He said, “Everything before competition.” He has the right attitude for athletics, but this attitude is also essential for litigation. Winning at litigation involves a number of factors, and the success of winning is dependent on many components. But make no mistake about it: winning is everything—whether it is at a hearing or trial. Whether it is in taking or defending a deposition. When I look at hiring first-year or lateral lawyers, I’m always interested in learning whether they have had any athletic or other competitive experiences. I spend some time discussing with them whether they enjoyed competition (“Did you love it?”) and what they like about it. Because in litigation, unless you have the fight, the tiger within, it is impossible to teach that by the time you are a lawyer. Another great tennis coach, Rick Macci (Coco Gauff), was working out my older sons – many, many years ago. He said, “It’s is too late to put a tiger in a player when he is 16 years old. It has to be learned before then.” Or, I say, it needs to be there intuitively. Do you have it?
The Lawyer who spends the time and wins:
The Practice #8: I love quotes. “Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.” – George Halas. When you are in the midst of competition, you have to give everything you have.“Winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while. You do them right all the time. ” – Vince Lombardi. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said, ”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” These quotes hit the mark for me. As I practice in my profession, I constantly strive for excellence — even perfection (just ask those who practice with me). For young lawyers, perfection is virtually impossible, because you constantly evolving as you learn the practice. It is, however, essential that you always try your best. In this way, you best serve your supervising attorney or partner and the firm’s clients. I always tell young lawyers, “Don’t worry about the amount of time you spend on a project. You do your best, and take as much time as you need” (unless we are under a tremendous client or court-ordered deadline). It is the partner’s responsibility to determine whether the time you spent is reasonably charged to a client or not. Not yours. This means that “yes” you may have some or a lot of your time written off. Don’t sweat that. When I was about one year into the practice of law, I decided in trying cases that I would spend all of the time necessary to win — even if it meant tremendous amount of my time never charged to a client. No matter what year or level of experience practicing law or trying cases you must perform at your best level and if, for the betterment of the client, that means substantial time is written off, then so be it. In doing so, this will make all the difference in the world on whether you win. Or lose.